August 7, 2019
Are You Forgetting 75% of Your Healthcare Marketing?
Marketing. I don’t think that word means what you think it means.
With shifting consumer expectations and game-changing digital tools, the old model doesn’t work anymore. Ten, even five years ago, healthcare marketing meant something different and was just a siloed department within the hospital. Yet much of healthcare is stuck in the past.
Historically, healthcare marketing has been viewed as an advertising department more than anything else. For example, out of the four Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Promotion and Place), promotion is the only one marketing departments were heavily involved in. Nobody asked anyone in marketing where they should build the next freestanding ER or what services should cost.
That’s changing in many places, and it needs to be changing everywhere. This is a good development, but it comes with a lot of added challenges.
With the rapid onslaught of digital reshaping all industries, healthcare is being forced down a new path led by consumers, based on their expectations of how they want to deal with providers. It began with brand perception, with people able to publish their opinions. The food suck? The nurses overworked and frustrated? The doc spending more time staring at a keyboard than your face? Once opinions were out there, providers had to react to them.
Today, everyone must take online reputation – ratings, reviews, questions and feedback – into account. Sure, it’s HCAHPS scores, but it’s more than that. It’s about perception and experience. Successful organizations are melding traditional patient experience initiatives and digital ones, learning where to look for feedback and how to respond.
The Digital Front Door…
This starts with the digital front door, which sets the tone for how consumers engage with you. In the past, it was just a website, some brochures and experience that happened in brick and mortar locations. Consumers then demanded to pay their bill online. Now, it’s a desire to use scheduling tools, physician finders, chatbots and text messaging. Today’s consumers want the same convenient digital access in healthcare that they’ve come to expect in other industries.
Which leaves us with two problems:
- When people expect a good digital front door in healthcare and don’t get it, they’re dissatisfied.
- We’re facing a big interoperability challenge trying to get all the tools to talk to each other (in a clean way that also checks all the regulatory boxes).
Lack of integration doesn’t mean people will let providers off the hook. If patients can’t get in through the front door, they’ll try a window.
Take Facebook. People are willing to ask anything on a hospital’s Facebook page – even something like: “What’s the cash pay rate for labor and delivery?” They do this through a social media platform because they can’t find the answer anywhere else. Patients don’t have easy access to useful information in healthcare and no one – especially not the frontline hospital social media manager swamped with inbound comments – is going to know what to quote someone for L&D (price transparency is just another piece of the digital consumer experience that isn’t working).
So, we need that interconnectivity across channels in a hospital. Obviously, there are restrictions because of personal health information and HIPAA. But providers have to be able to connect with people and get them to the right resource by integrating these tools as much as possible and empowering the employees managing them to help patients.
Connecting Marketing With… Everything
Hospitals can’t fully enter the era of consumerism and connect with patients until they’ve made the right internal connections. That means between hospital operations and marketing, between quality and marketing, between IT and marketing. You can’t just go do “marketing” and “marketing communications” over in a corner by itself anymore. We’re not just going to events in town and putting up heartfelt billboards. That’s become a very small part of what the marketing arm of a provider organization should be focused on.
The First Step in the Right Direction
Instead, the focus should be on collecting information and then using it to improve operations across the organization, creating a better experience for everyone. Take online reviews. Steps include:
- Knowing that people are talking online
- Monitoring when someone makes a comment or writes a review
- Being prepared to do something with it, which means figuring out…
— How you’ll respond
— Who needs to know about it
— How you’re going to document it
- Compiling each discrete piece of information to identify trends
- Using the collective dataset to make things better
A lot of hospitals do the first part of that equation pretty well. Providers are monitoring and responding online. Now we have to move on to the next stage, aggregating the data and using it to create a better patient experience.
Marketing’s Role in Patient Experience and Consumerism
Here’s where we can bring it back around to a new kind of marketing. Healthcare is doing a lot of online advertising and generating a lot of data. You need to understand what to do with that data. And the more digital advertising you do, the more interoperability you need. Somebody’s got to make heads or tails of it all. A lot of healthcare organizations aren’t filling marketing vacancies with the same types of roles, anymore. Instead we’re seeing more titles that have the words “consumerism,” “insights,” and “analytics”. The data science part of the healthcare marketing world is going to evolve over the next couple of years because providers must have somebody interpreting the growing dataset that’s coming in online.
The reality is, it’s all very messy. And people don’t need another shiny object to fill a void. There’s plenty of technology out there that does cool stuff. Now, the conversation needs to move to how we use it in a smart way. How do we combine the right set of tools and use them to make healthcare organizations places where patients want to come to receive care, where employees want to work and where physicians want to practice?
If you’re concerned that your digital program isn’t smart enough, give us a call. We can help you audit your current strategy and tools and talk you through ideas to improve.